And the sad state of democracy
Shahabaz Sharif has taken over the captaincy of the ruling party at a testing time. He is also likely to be the PML-N’s nominee for the office of the PM. His performance would show if he was really cut out for the two jobs. The PML-N is facing hard times. Nawaz Sharif, the party’s mentor, has been disqualified and is facing court cases. The party has lost the Senate elections which has caused demoralisation in its ranks. The general elections are due after four months.
Democracy is in a bad shape. The peaceful and orderly transfer of power in 2013 had given rise to expectations that the system would be further strengthened under the PML-N rule. This failed to happen for which the discredit primarily goes to the PML-N though the opposition parties, the establishment and state institutions have also to share the blame. The highly personalised style of governance where Nawaz Sharif took all the decisions in consultation with a coterie comprising close family members and cronies discredited the Parliament. The PM generally absented himself from the NA sittings and attended only one meeting of the Senate in four years. This led the ministers and top bureaucrats to ignore the Parliament. The NA Speaker has staged a walk out in protest against the absence of two bureaucrats. Had he done this four years back, things might have improved. Coming at the fag end of the NA’s tenure this looks no more than a political gimmick.
Under the PML-N rule political discourse degenerated, thanks Imran Khan in particular. Meddling in the political process by the establishment continues unabated. What happened to the Zehri-led PML-N government in Balochistan and the way the Senate elections were maneuvered are the latest examples of political engineering. The PTI and PPP allowed themselves to be taken hostage by 15 independents who ensconced a political novice into the Senate Chairman’s office.
One will wait to see if Shahbaz Sharif has the guts to stop the interventions of the offstage players in the pre-election political process. Or will the skeletons in his cupboard that have started rattling make him obediently cooperate in whatever anti-democratic forces want to do?